Purpose of the Ombudsperson
The word “ombudsman” originated in Sweden and means “representative of the people.” The University of Nebraska Medical Center has established a team of ombudspersons to help students, residents, faculty, and staff resolve problems and to promote fair and equitable treatment for all members of the UNMC community. David Carver, Ph.D. is the designated ombudsperson for students and residents. Rather than taking sides in a dispute, the ombudsperson assists the parties in gathering accurate information and seeking non-adversarial solutions. Confidentiality is maintained regarding all student complaints or concerns. More specifically, the Ombudsperson services are:
- Confidential--no written records kept, no private information given to external sources except in cases of direct threats of physical harm to self or others;
- Informal – the ombudsperson is not an “office of notice” for filing formal complaints, grievances, or appeals and is not involved in formal dispute or disciplinary processes;
- Independent – authority for the ombudsperson program is held in the Chancellor’s office and the ombudsperson reports trends or general problem areas (but no individual identifying information) to the Chancellor; and
- Neutral--the ombudsperson advocates for fair processes but does not take sides or serve as an advocate in individual disputes.
Function of the Ombudsperson
Information and Referral Source — The ombudsperson is an information source on policies, procedures, and regulations that apply to students, staff, or faculty. In a complex organization like UNMC, it is often difficult to figure out where to take an issue or concern. The ombudsperson can answer the question “Where do I start?” by referring the complainant to the appropriate person or office.
Facilitator/Mediator — When a problem cannot be resolved at the referral level, the ombudsperson may act as a mediator between parties in a dispute. The mediation process facilitates open communication and often produces a solution that both parties find acceptable. The dispute may be between a student and a faculty member, two or more students, or/and student and an employee. If the dispute cannot be resolved through mediation, the ombudsperson may inform the complainant about formal “due process” grievance procedures as a last resort. When due process is utilized, the likelihood of achieving a satisfactory, non-adversarial solution diminishes. The ombudsperson will not serve as the advocate or the representative for a student or employee during a formal grade appeal or grievance.
Policy Recommendations — Ombudspersons gather facts and data on recurring problems experienced by students, faculty, or staff. Team members may recommend changes in policies, procedures, and organizational structures to promote greater fairness and equity. The Ombudspersons will report to the Director of the Campus Equity Office and the Chancellor in recommending policy changes and for program administration. 37
Consult an Ombudsperson . . .
- If you are unsure about which UNMC policies, procedures, or regulations apply in your situation.
- If you have a specific problem or complaint that you have not been able to resolve through regular UNMC channels (or if you are unclear about where to start).
- If you need help in deciding whether to appeal an evaluation, a grade, or an administrative decision.
- If you feel that you have been treated unfairly and would like an objective opinion about the matter.
- If you believe you are a victim of discrimination based on sex, ethnic origin, race, religious beliefs, or other personal characteristics.
- If you have a problem that requires a mediator to facilitate communication and understanding between you and another party.
- If you think that a policy or procedure has been applied to you unfairly or erroneously.
- Students and residents can get more information about the Ombudsperson service by calling Pat Oberlander at 402-559-2491.
Bennett Hall, Room 6001
(call for a confidential appointment)